Stress and eating responses in adolescent females predisposed to obesity: A pilot and feasibility study

Katherine M. Kidwell, Jennifer Reiter-Purtill, Kristina Decker, Taylor Howarth, Faye Doland, Meg H. Zeller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objective: To explore how chronic stress, reactivity to acute stress, and obesogenic eating are linked in adolescent females predisposed to obesity. Methods: Participants included 21 adolescent females (mage = 14.57 years) and their biological mothers with obesity (body mass index [BMI] ≥ 30 kg/m2). The pilot and feasibility study involved adolescent self-report of chronic stress, an acute stress-induction paradigm (Trier Social Stress Task, TSST), salivary cortisol collection to assess stress reactivity, and both subjective (self-report) and objective (snack buffet) measures of obesogenic eating. Results: Adolescent females reporting high chronic stress were significantly more likely to engage in self-reported emotional and external eating and to have higher food cravings (p's <.05) compared to adolescents with low chronic stress. Effect size estimates suggested a blunting effect of cortisol in the high chronic stress group. Blunted cortisol reactivity significantly predicted higher self-reported food cravings for the high chronic stress group (p =.04). Associations among chronic stress, cortisol, and self-reported and objective obesogenic eating reflected medium to large effect sizes. Conclusions: This study built on limited extant research on stress and eating to demonstrate that chronic stress was associated with self-reported obesogenic eating patterns in adolescent females predisposed to obesity. Different patterns of cortisol reactivity and eating emerged depending on chronic stress group (low versus high). Understanding these eating patterns in the context of chronic stress can inform interventions to reduce obesity risks in adolescence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106308
StatePublished - Dec 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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